The Nicaraguan Parliament approved this Thursday (13) a law that will allow the political class to control public and private cinematographic and audiovisual production in the Latin American country.
The measure was interpreted by the artistic class as an advance by Daniel Ortega’s dictatorship against the cultural sector, which in April saw the dissolution of the Nicaraguan Film Association as part of the cancellation of more than 2,000 NGOs ordered by the regime.
Congressman Wálmaro Gutiérrez, from the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) —Ortega’s party—, said during the parliamentary debate that the law aims to “promote, disseminate and regulate” activities in the cultural sector. He denies that the rule, approved unanimously, will be used for some form of repression.
“Just because I have a cell phone and make a video doesn’t make me an audiovisual producer,” he said, rejecting criticism that the project would end up censoring video postings on social networks.
Deputies interviewed by the AFP news agency said that journalistic content would not be in the regulatory umbrella. The law also sets out the guidelines that will be used to determine whether an audiovisual production can be considered Nicaraguan.
Independent filmmakers released a statement in which they claim that the material has a “control and censorship” character and that, because it is ambiguous, it will pose a threat to the freedom of cinematographic creation.
Members of the defunct Nicaraguan Film Association, which operated for more than three decades, told AFP that the legislature is only making official what, in practice, was already a requirement for working in the film industry. One of them stated that it became extremely difficult to make cinema in the country.
Uninterruptedly in power since 2007, Ortega was re-elected in a closed election last November. One of the leaders who at the end of the 1970s led the resistance and the consequent overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship, he has led vast repression and an authoritarian turn in the country.
Also on Thursday, the French government said it was deeply concerned about the detention in September of two Nicaraguan and French dual-citizen women in Managua on allegations of conspiracy against the regime and spreading false news.
Jeannine and Ana Alvarez Horvilleur are, respectively, the wife and daughter of Javier Alvarez, a Nicaraguan economist exiled for opposing Ortega. He told Reuters that the detention of the two was a way for the regime to attack him. “They were detained as revenge for not being able to find me.”
The French chancellery said it had requested permission to visit the two in prison, but had not yet received a response. “We will spare no effort to obtain permission and exercise our consular protection.”
Over the past few months, one of the main areas of repression by the regime has been against Catholic leaders. Ortega recently called the Catholic Church a “perfect dictatorship and tyranny.”
In August, the regime arrested the Bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, and seven others from the institution, prompting comments from Pope Francis calling for an “open and sincere” dialogue.
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